Deadlock: Online Proves Great in Theory, But Disappoints in Connectivity

DeadlockCrescent Moon Games is a iOS developer who has shown up in the iOS top charts several times, but a studio that we haven’t yet looked at in tremendous detail. Their most recent release provides ample opportunity in the form of the online multiplayer game, Deadlock: Online. Interesting in concept, the free-to-play application has shot up the top free iPad app charts to #10, and currently mills about that area.

Dubbed the “Call of Duty of iPhone” by some of its current users, the game shows potential, and the comparison can certainly be seen. It’s a dual-stick shooter very reminiscent of Modern Warfare multiplayer and it’s been dramatically streamlined for iPhone and iPad players. That said, it feels like Crescent Moon has bitten off far more than it can chew, as the overall player experience is lacking due to connectivity and server issues.

For those unfamiliar with the classification, a “dual-stick shooter” is typically a top-down game in which two virtual analog sticks are placed on the bottom corners of the game with the left controlling movement and the right controlling shooting direction. Players can opt to play both single and multiplayer matches against either AI or human opponents.

Deadlock OnlineRegardless of opponent, some basic elements are universal. Within a handful of simple maps, players first select a weapon loadout. This is the first similarity to the noted Modern Warfare multiplayer. Players are able to select what primary weapon (rifles, SMGS, shotguns, etc.) they wish to use, a secondary sidearm, grenades, and defensive equipment. Each weapon comes with stats that affect play and include accuracy, damage, ammunition capacity and so on. Moreover, these stats can be augmented with attachments such scopes and laser sights. Each of these weapons and items must be unlocked, but more on that in a bit.

Other universal game elements include grenades, which can be thrown via a tap on the icon and a slide in a general direction, explosive environmental objects, and the occasional ammo or health pickup that falls from a defeated opponent.

Players are also granted various game modes to choose from, which will differ based on whether or not they are playing alone. In single player, users can enter into a “Deathmatch” mode with up to seven other AI opponents, with the sole objective being to rack up as many kills as possible within the time limit. Aside from this, players can also play a “Survival” mode, in which continual waves of enemies spawn until the user eventually dies.

Game ModesTruth be told, the single-player is rather underwhelming, leaving the real meat of the game in the multiplayer. Here, users can play matches with up to eight total players which include Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture & Hold (controlling a point of interest). It is also through the multiplayer that new weapons and items can be earned.

In order to utilize the 30-some-odd weapons in Deadlock, users must acquire a virtual currency called “Unlock Points.” As a free-to-play game, this is the core monetization method employed. Users can buy points in quantities of four to 120 at $0.99 and $9.99 respectively. To add perspective, the cheaper of the two packages can buy about one decent weapon.

Players can earn Unlock Points in game by getting top slots on the daily leaderboards or sharing the app with a friend. Additionally, one Unlock Point is every time a player levels up, but this slows down considerably as leveling begins to take longer amounts of time, slowing the sense of player progression and reward. Unfortunately, this is where the primary frustration of Deadlock sets in.

Experience is only earned from multiplayer matches (e.g. from kills), but the connectivity and servers for Deadlock are simply not up to snuff to handle the number of players trying to play. More often than not, multiplayer games were met with lock-ups on the “Joining Game” screen in which connections were never established. There was also frequent lag, loss of game hosts, and a high number of disconnections. These issues made the game nearly unplayable, and leave only the single player. That said, games where we were able to successfully fun were actually a ton of fun — especially Capture & Hold.

LoadoutFun as the game was, there are still a few criticisms I had regarding gameplay. The game was difficult to control at first and the spawning locations didn‘t feel adequately planned. In some cases, they work well, re-spawning the player in a relatively safe area away from combat where they can get situated. Other times, the game just throws the user into a seemingly random spot on the map. This sometimes leave them in the middle of three different streams of bullets, leading to instant death.

The game also comes with chat systems that are worth mentioning. They can be a double-edged sword though. While it is nice to chat with other players, it brings back sometimes snarky and vulgar remarks from less mature players that plague the shooter genre.

In the end, Deadlock: Online seems like it could be a great game, it really does. It‘s fun to play, and that‘s what matters — when it works. It’s just that the connectivity feels so unreliable, making the majority of the app extraordinarily frustrating. The real shame, is that based on past games such as Gears, Crescent Moon Games is able to make high-quality apps. But from a technological standpoint, it might be wiser to wait for a few more updates before picking up this new release.